UK & World News

  • 12 June 2014, 23:57

World Cup: Violent Clashes In Sao Paulo

Police have fired stun grenades and tear gas to break up a protest in Sao Paulo just hours before the opening game of the World Cup.

Officers also used rubber bullets as anger at the money being spent to host the competition spilled over.

Around 100 protesters gathered near a subway station with a red banner reading, "If we have no rights, there won't be a Cup".

They were trying to block part of the main highway leading to the Corinthians Arena, which hosts tonight's opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

Lines of police moved in and managed to disperse them, making at least one arrest.

The demonstrators regrouped about two hours later and clashed with police again three blocks away, hurling rocks and setting fire to rubbish.

At least five people were injured in clashes, a police spokesman said.

Photos circulated by a protest group showed a handful of protesters with injuries including bloody noses and what appeared to be wounds on their legs from rubber bullets.

About 1,000 protesters in Rio de Janeiro marched peacefully, though some burned Brazilian flags and carried signs saying "Fifa go home," a reference to world football's governing body.

There were smaller demonstrations in other host cities.

Many Brazilians are furious over the $11.3bn (£8bn) spent on staging the World Cup when basic social services are poorly financed.

After a build-up marred by construction delays and political unrest, the competition will finally get under way with an opening ceremony featuring performances by stars including Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull.

Much of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, resembled a ghost town earlier today after officials declared a partial holiday to ensure traffic to the Corinthians Arena would be light. 

However, thousands of fans flying into the country are facing a chaotic welcome after ground staff at Rio de Janeiro's Galeao International Airport voted to stage a 24-hour strike in a row over pay.

Baggage handlers and check-in staff will join colleagues at the city's Santos Dumont airport - an important hub for flights to Sao Paulo, where England play Uruguay next week - in downing tools.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has dismissed complaints about the heavy spending and delays in preparing stadiums and airports.

"What I'm seeing more and more is the welcome given to the teams and the happiness of the Brazilian people with our team," she declared.

Brazil's team, led by 22-year-old star striker Neymar, is widely fancied to beat Croatia and go on to win a record sixth World Cup title.

The stakes are high on and off the pitch. The success or otherwise of the tournament may affect President Rousseff's re-election chances in October, as well as Brazil's flagging reputation among investors.

Advertisement